Training program

Please note that it is only possible to participate in ONWAR and ONWAR’s training program, when you hold a PhD-position at one of the institutes participating in ONWAR.

Overview of training program

ONWAR offers a training program for PhD candidates performing their PhD research in the field of neuroscience at one of the participating research institutes. The aim of the training program is to provide graduate students with an adequate overview of neurosciences allowing them to be involved in multidisciplinary brain research and increasing their national and international career opportunities.

To achieve these goals the training program consists of a PhD research project and related courses on the one hand, and general courses not directly related to the research project on the other. These include training in presentational skills, grant writing and in-depth courses on the physiology and pathology of the CNS.

PhD candidates are appointed at participating departments or institutes. A contract between the candidate and the appointing organization is prepared in which the training and supervision plan is described. In order to enrol in the graduate school, this training and supervision plan needs to be approved by the teaching committee and the directory board of ONWAR.

PhD candidates who want to enrol in ONWAR are expected to hold a MSc. degree in the field of neuroscience. If this is not the case, the teaching committee will assess the candidate’s curriculum and may request the candidate to follow a general introductory course in neuroscience, which is provided through the Master’s program of the participating universities.

The training program is organized under the supervision of the teaching committee of ONWAR, and consists of the components listed below, together accumulating to at least 404 hours of training. 

A large portion of the ONWAR training program consists of courses. You need to have at least 260 hours of courses in order to meet the ONWAR criteria and qualify for the ONWAR certificate. Courses fall into two categories:

Neuroscience (at least 160 hours)

ONWAR organizes specialized courses on various neurobiological subjects. These courses provide in-depth information on the theoretical and practical aspects in the field. Two or more ONWAR courses, together constituting at least 80 or more hours, have to be attended. Participants are encouraged to follow specialized ONWAR courses that are not directly related to their PhD research project, to stimulate a broader knowledge of the neurosciences. Courses that count towards the Neuroscience hours of the training program are:

    • neuroscience courses from the ONWAR program(at least 80 hours)
    • neuroscience courses from other neuroscience institutes
      (if not listed in the training and supervision plan template, please consult the ONWAR coordinator)

 Other subjects

To get to the 260 hours of courses, PhD candidates may follow courses on other subjects. For example, students involved in animal experiments are required to successfully complete a course on laboratory animal science, and those who work with human patients may need a course on Good Clinical Practice (BROK®). Extra courses might be courses in (bio)statistics, scientific writing and presenting in English or relevant courses organized by the participating or other universities such as:

    • theoretical and practical courses on non-neuroscience topics
    • courses to train soft skills 
Note that in order to use non-ONWAR courses in your training program, you need to share proof of participation with the ONWAR coordinator.
ONWAR Introductory course (24 hours)

Participation in the ONWAR introductory course is mandatory for all ONWAR PhD students

 Annual PhD meetings (3x or 4x)

Annual meetings take place at which PhD candidates from all participating institutes meet to present and discuss the progress of their research. PhD candidates are obliged to attend all annual meetings during their contract (3 on a 3-year contract, 4 on a 4-year contract) and submit abstracts of their work. 

Swammerdam Lectures (15 or 20 hours)

To inform students of highlights in the neurosciences, ONWAR organizes an annual series of Swammerdam Lectures which have been incorporated as an integral component of the training program. These lectures are held approximately six times a year by renowned neuroscientists. PhD candidates are expected to attend all Swammerdam Lectures during their contract (15/20 hours for 3/4 year contracts).

The following activities may not be used as part of the ONWAR training program:


If you have successfully completed the full ONWAR training program* at the end of your PhD trajectory, you qualify for the ONWAR certificate. For more information on requesting the ONWAR certificate and other information relevant at the final stage of your PhD trajectory, visit our page on Finishing up

*The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the ability to participate in the full training program. ONWAR therefore has a COVID-compensation regulation, which you can also find under Finishing up.

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